Vienna Summer School, 2016

By Janis Gibbs

Janis in Vienna 1I am writing from Vienna, Austria, where we have just finished six weeks of May and June classes, and celebrated the sixtieth anniversary of the Hope College Vienna Summer School. I have spent my summers teaching in Vienna since 1998, under the directorship of my colleague, Professor Stephen Hemenway of the English Department. He has just finished his forty-first summer as the Director of the Summer School. The Vienna program was founded by the late Dr. Paul Fried, who was chair of the History Department for many years, and was Hope’s first Director of International Education.

450px-Holy_Roman_Empire_Crown_(Imperial_Treasury)2In Vienna, I teach the interdisciplinary humanities general education course, which combines history, philosophy, and literature. We focus on the theme of empire, and we take advantage of many of the cultural opportunities available in Vienna. Together, we visited Schönbrunn Palace, the imperial Habsburg tombs, the imperial treasury (where we saw the crown of the Holy Roman Empire, pictured here), and the Museum of Military History. Because this is the 100th anniversary of the death of the Emperor Franz Joseph, there were lots of chances to see exhibits focused on his life and times.

Janis Gibbs and John Knapp Vienna 2016This past weekend, we had a wonderful celebration in the Vienna Woods, attended by this year’s Hope Vienna students, as well as alumni, family, and friends of Hope College. President John Knapp also joined us for the festivities. We had a lovely buffet dinner, with orange and blue decorations supplied by Board of Trustees member Brian Gibbs, who has also been a participant in the Vienna Summer School for more than thirty years.

I always enjoy teaching in Vienna because I can see students discover all kinds of things about European history and culture.

The opportunities in Vienna are rich and varied. In May, we all went to a German-language production of “Fiddler on the Roof,” (called “Anatevka” in German), which took on special significance in light of the current refugee crisis in Europe. For a few days in May, the regular routes of public transportation near our classrooms were disrupted because many world diplomats, including Secretary of State John Kerry, were meeting in a nearby hotel to discuss possible responses to the Syrian civil war.

When we visited Prague, we saw the memorial to the Bohemian nobles executed at the beginning of the Thirty Years’ War in the 1600s, as well as more modern sites associated with the life of Franz Kafka, whose work we read in class. Many of us attended a free, outdoor concert at Schönbrunn Palace by the Vienna Philharmonic.

Last week, we were shocked, as were people around the world, by the Brexit vote. Studying (and teaching) in Vienna gives all of us, I think, a more immediate sense of history, and of the importance of world events occurring right now. It always gives us pause to realize how much Austrians know about American history and politics (and how little we, in return, know about Austria, at least at the beginning of the summer.) We hope, by the end, that we all have a better sense of the history of our host country.

Studying (and teaching) in Vienna gives all of us, I think, a more immediate sense of history, and of the importance of world events occurring right now.

It’s a treat to introduce students to Vienna. I’m happy to be a part of Hope’s long-standing Vienna Summer School, and I’m looking forward to many more successful summers in Vienna.

Alumni Feature: Cory Lakatos

cory_lakatosStudying history at Hope College helped keep me from becoming a snob. It turns out that this gives you a greater advantage in the world of work than you might realize. What do I mean? Well, before I get into that, let me give you some background on how I got where I am today.

I graduated from Hope in 2012 with a double major in history and English literature. At the time, I thought my history major would serve me well as I went on to graduate studies in English, in addition to its great intrinsic value.

To make a long story short, plans change.

God in His providence often doesn’t work the way we think He will.

For a variety of reasons, I didn’t end up going to grad school. I moved back to Holland to be close to my girlfriend, a history minor with another year to go at Hope (we got engaged soon thereafter, and are married now). I started hunting for a job, and I ended up landing a part-time retail job I frankly would have avoided if I’d had my druthers. However, one shouldn’t be too proud to work a menial job when necessary, and it did help make ends meet.

Around the same time I was talking to a connection at church, a local business owner and history buff who happens to be friends with Dr. Baer, the outgoing chair of Hope’s history department. He asked me if I had any editorial experience, and I mentioned my work at Hope’s student newspaper, in addition to my two writing-focused majors. Pretty soon I had picked up a second part-time job as an editor at his company, and before too long I worked my way up to a full-time position.

That’s how I came to be the office manager and chief copywriter at Black Lake Studio & Press, a strategic communications, marketing, and publishing company on 8th Street within sight of Hope’s campus. My designer colleagues and I like to say that we “help good people do good things,” working collaboratively with entrepreneurs, businesses, nonprofits, ministries, authors, and thought leaders to help them articulate their message and engage their audience. My role is mainly concerned with project management, writing, and editing.

lakatos-graduationBut what does my job have to do with being a history major and not being a snob? Well, there’s nothing like studying history to cure a person of “chronological snobbery,” which the great C.S. Lewis describes in Surprised by Joy as “the uncritical acceptance of the intellectual climate common to our own age and the assumption that whatever has gone out of date is on that account discredited.” Young, twenty-first-century Americans are perhaps even more prone to this error than most, so I could have easily fallen prey to it. Learning to understand and appreciate people who lived in different times and places is one of the hallmarks of an education in history, and when done properly it eliminates chronological snobbery. It also kills other forms of snobbery and fosters many transferable skills.

Understanding that people think differently than you and being able to learn from them and communicate with them on their own terms whether you agree with or relate to them or not is essential in my work. I learned to do it through history research and writing. Sure, I didn’t communicate directly with the people of the past, but I listened to them in their writings and joined a conversation they had started. I do something similar when I listen to our clients and their customers, figure out what messages resonate with them, and write accordingly.

Earning a history degree has also given me research skills that are helpful during the discovery phase of projects.

The ability to read a cultural artifact verbally and visually has also been useful. And after four years of writing history papers, I am able to effectively structure an argument, back it up with solid, convincing evidence, and explain a concept clearly and succinctly. I need to do that every day in my job. On top of that, learning to play by the Chicago Manual of Style’s rules has also been to my advantage, since it serves as Black Lake’s go-to style guide.

In short, whether the Lord leads you down the path you were expecting or some stranger trail, and whether you end up working in the academy, the business world, or somewhere else entirely, you’re going to need communication skills, and you can’t afford to be a snob. There’s nothing quite like studying history to form you in this way.

June 23: an historic day

By Marc Baer

EUUN0001Next week, on June 23, British voters will participate in an historic event, the United Kingdom European Union (EU) membership referendum, popularly known as Brexit. At this moment polling reveals a razor-thin margin in favor of leaving.

British membership in the EU has been controversial since 1972, when the UK joined what was then the European Economic Community. In 1975, 67 percent of voters voted yes in a referendum on remaining in the EEC. Currently, “leavers” (also known as Eurosceptics) believe that a UK outside the EU would be better able to control immigration. There’s also hostility directed toward un-elected EU bureaucrats in Brussels making too many decisions for the UK, thereby undermining national sovereignty. As one leaver commented, “All that money we’re sending to Belgium and them telling us what to do.” Many people seem ready to vote for a Brexit even though polls show they also think that leaving will be risky for the British economy.

UK-Union-FlagBritons who want to remain in the EU believe that departure would not only undermine their country’s economy but as well marginalize the UK’s role in Europe and globally. Younger Britons are generally comfortable with a multicultural society and prize the ease with which they can travel to or work in the 28 EU nations. A survey released last week by the Pew Research Center found that 57 percent of those 18 to 34 years old in Britain had a favorable view of the European Union, compared with 38 percent of people 50 and over.

Labour party voters favor Remain, while a majority of Conservatives prefer leaving the EU. Support for EU membership is high in Scotland, with 60 per cent backing Remain. There is talk that if Brexit passes, Scotland will vote to leave the UK and as an independent nation join the EU. Voters in Wales slightly favor Remain, while those in Northern Ireland are more pro-EU than any other British region—by something like a 3 to 1 margin. All this suggests how divided the United Kingdom is at this historic moment.

You can go to British Media Online to follow developments. Recommended sources include The Times; The Independent; The Guardian; The Financial Times; BBC News; The Telegraph; EU Observer.

History and French and Secondary Education, Oh My!

By Miriam Roth

Me in front of Chenonceau, my favorite castle of the ones I visited. It is a fascinating historical landmark— originally built in 1513, and both Diane de Poitiers and Catherine de Medici "embellished" it. Also, it's just magical!
Me in front of Chenonceau, my favorite castle of the ones I visited. It is a fascinating historical landmark— originally built in 1513, and both Diane de Poitiers and Catherine de Medici “embellished” it. Also, it’s just magical!

“What’s your major?” It’s a question that any college student has answered a thousand times, and I am no exception. My answer, though, is a bit of a mouthful any way you slice it.

Yes, I’m one of those crazy people who smashes three disciplines together and goes for a double major. I came to Hope tentatively leaning toward some combination of History and French, with Education lurking somewhere in the back of my head, and—well, what can I say? Three years later, this is where God has led me. I’ve had my ups and downs, but right now I’m three quarters of the way through my tenure as an undergrad, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

In finding my way to studying History, French, and Education at Hope, I have the History department to thank. It was the outreach of History Professor Marc Baer which convinced me to come to Hope. Throughout my journey here, it has been a tremendous blessing to know that my professors are always willing to encourage and challenge me on a personal level. In fact, I have received incredible support from the faculty and staff of all three disciplines in which I am involved, and as a result I’ve had a variety of interdisciplinary experiences which have allowed me to combine my passions in exciting ways.

Here are some of my favorites:

Summer History Research in Washington, D.C.
Me with fellow Hope College researchers Ian, Sam, and Jon at the Library of Congress.
Me with fellow Hope College researchers Ian, Sam, and Jon at the Library of Congress.

As part of a two-month summer research project with faculty mentor Professor Jeanne Petit, I and three other history majors traveled to Washington, D.C. There, we studied documents about the 1918 United War Work Campaign that were housed at the Library of Congress and other archives. In addition to honing my historical research skills, I also got to work a little bit with French (reading and translating some French-language newspapers) and with Education (thinking about how to make our final project, a website, an accessible learning experience for the public). We also interacted with student research teams from Italy and Pakistan. I found these interactions to be wonderful opportunities to engage in intercultural learning, which is an important aspect of all three of the disciplines that I study.

Semester Abroad in France
Me with my friend Emily (a recent Hope grad) in front of one of Nantes's most famous attractions, the giant mechanical elephant at the Machines de l'Ile. The Machines are inspired by Jules Verne, and this one walks, carries people, and even sprays water out of its trunk!
Me with my friend Emily (a recent Hope grad) in front of one of Nantes’s most famous attractions, the giant mechanical elephant at the Machines de l’Ile. The Machines are inspired by Jules Verne, and this one walks, carries people, and even sprays water out of its trunk!

Last fall, I spent about three and a half months living in the city of Nantes, which is in historic Bretagne in northwest France. This was the perfect opportunity for me to grow my language skills and interact firsthand with French (and bretonne) culture, but also to engage with history and education.

I was able to take two history classes which, thanks to support from Hope’s history department, counted toward my major. One of these classes, “France and the Atlantic World,” allowed me to learn on-site by observing remnants of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century port activity around the city. I also visited numerous cathedrals, châteaux, and other historic landmarks in Nantes and around France.

On the Education side, I had an internship teaching English in a French school, for which I largely developed my own lesson plans and curriculum. With all of the opportunities that study abroad brings for all sorts of majors (and combinations thereof), I cannot recommend it enough!

Presentation at the National Conference of the National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS)

Studying History Education means that I not only think about understanding and analyzing history myself, but also about effectively teaching students how to develop historical thinking skills and master key content.

As part of a project for an Education class and the Mellon Scholars Program this past spring, I conducted a case study on Document-Based Learning, a fairly recent initiative in History Education. This was my first substantial foray into History Education research, and I came away with new appreciation for and understanding of teaching history and thinking historically. As an added bonus, I have been accepted to present my research at the NCSS’s National Conference in Washington, D.C. this December, alongside social studies educators from across the country!

So, yes, I am one of those crazy people who smashes History, French, and Education degrees together, but looking at where such craziness has led me, I feel nothing but grateful for the path I have taken. I highly encourage any student interested in History to combine it with other majors and minors, and to engage in the wonderful opportunities that come with interdisciplinary learning.

Goodbye, kind of

By Marc Baer

Most of you know that after a wonderful 33 years teaching at Hope and an especially delightful 6 years chairing the History department, as of June 30 I will have retired; professor emeritus will be my title. (I looked up emeritus: it’s Latin for “out of merit,” which seems about right for me).

But many of you probably don’t know that I will have had the shortest retirement in history. I retire as professor and chair on June 30. Today I start work as interim Dean for the Arts and Humanities at Hope. Wait, you say, you can’t do math: you’re starting a new job BEFORE you retire from the old one. My answer: I’m a history major; I don’t do math. 🙂

we-are-the-baerTo be serious for just a moment, I’ve had a wonderful sendoff. Students in the last 2 classes I will have taught—Introduction to Modern European History and British and Irish History since 1700—said some nice things; some conspirators organized a mass tee-shirt event as part of our department’s end of the year celebration/appetizer challenge (which, by the way, I lost for like the 10th time in a row); and my colleagues had a lovely dinner event for me, complete with great presents. So I’m feeling very honored.

Plan A had been give away my books and move out of my office (happened), a bucket list trip to Banff (still happening, next month), serving as one of the faculty advisors for Mortar Board (still happening), and volunteering as a mentor for Upward Bound students (probably postponed for a year).

Plan B is to move 2 floors down to the dean’s office (happened today) and spend 13 months managing 9 departments and 4 programs. I’ll have a lot to learn, including what it means to change calling, from serving students to serving others who serve students.

What I’ll miss the most is the close relationship with the extraordinary students I’ve worked with over my time at Hope—as fellow researchers on book or article projects, as teaching assistants, as mentees in the Pew Society (now Klesis), as advisor but particularly as friends. When I’m asked what has brought me joy in my work it’s that.

So, I’m moving on (actually down, from Lubbers 329 to Lubbers 124—please stop by if you’re on campus), and beginning a 13-month adventure. After which, I really will retire. I mean it this time—maybe.